Opinion

Is a port district a way out of this dilemma? | Our Opinion | Jan. 28

Considering the city’s recent performances involving liveaboard and waterfront land issues, it’s obvious that it lacks discernment when dealing with state agencies. True, the liveaboards weren’t evicted and the city is $2 million richer, but the mismanaged mess known as Eagle Harbor is still in disarray.

Worse, the city has little heart, or resources, to tackle the many intricate problems caused by the fact a federal Superfund site and a state ferry maintenance yard dominate a body of water that still has potential to be one of Puget Sound’s jewels.

Jim Llewellyn, a former two-term City Council member, has an idea: form a Port of Bainbridge Island to join the 12 other port districts in Kitsap County, which is far more than any other county in a state that has 44 of them. (Oddly, the only island community in the county is without one).

Llewellyn is in the preliminary stages of gathering a nucleus of islanders willing to work on seeing if the community would support such a project, which initially needs the collection of enough petition signatures (10 percent of the city’s registered voters) to put it on the ballot.

“I’ve got a lot of groundwork ahead of me,” he said. “But I think it’s a good time to see if islanders want to go another way when it comes to Eagle Harbor and our other inland waters. I look at it as relieving the city of a chunk of responsibility that would really be better off in the hands of people who know how to run a port. I know that dealing with other government agencies is usually more efficiently done by a port commission.”

Asking people to approve another tax during this economic nightmare is untimely at best, but ports are proven economic engines in small communities because they offer a variety of revenue sources beyond operating shipping terminals, including: marinas, docks, airports, railroads, industrial sites and recreational facilities. Ports bring economic development – investment and jobs – to their communities.

Bainbridge had many small port districts over the years to serve its many transportation and industrial needs before the consolidated Port of Bainbridge was dissolved 50 years ago. But a new port district could be the first step toward establishing a 21st century version of the island’s working relationshp with Puget Sound.

Just as islanders decided to establish their own park district, they might want to consider forming an authority on how to create a modern, water-based economy.

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